A Message from Vesterheim President/CEO Chris Johnson

In the aftermath of the death of George Floyd, Vesterheim issued a public statement about the museum’s responsibility to foster diversity, equity, and inclusion. Today, I want to follow up that statement and talk about next steps that Vesterheim will be taking to address racism  and bias over the long-term. The first step I will be taking is the creation of an advisory team that looks at how the organization can improve its approaches to diversity, equity, and inclusion in a number of key areas. This advisory team will provide counsel to the organization as a whole. Some of the key issues I see it focusing on include:

  • Inviting new voices into Vesterheim’s planning processes to include those who identify themselves beyond the Norwegian and Norwegian-American community. 
  • Reviewing Vesterheim’s personnel policies and procedures and updating those to reflect a welcoming work environment, regardless of a person’s background. 
  • Looking at ways Vesterheim Folk Art School can provide space for cultural conversations around folk-art traditions that includes voices representing many cultural perspectives.
  • Reviewing the messaging and terminology that is used in forums such as Vesterheim magazine and other publications to ensure that Vesterheim uses inclusive language that doesn’t inadvertently exclude.
  • Exploring potential partnerships with other institutions that represent cultures beyond the Norwegian-American experience to engage in programs and initiatives that will broaden conversations.

This is not an exhaustive list, but it is a place to start. There will, undoubtedly, be mistakes in the effort, but Vesterheim will learn as it goes.  

In a world that is influenced by the news cycle, an issue that was important three weeks ago will often diminish in importance with the passing of time. It would be easy to look the other way and pretend that racism will just go away. Vesterheim is committed to do this work over the long term and take the time needed to make lasting changes. This is a difficult challenge, but with changes, Vesterheim can contribute to creating a world that recognizes disparities, respects differences, and realizes our common humanity.

Chris Johnson, President / CEO